The primary purpose of the RJCA Youth Community Conferencing Program is to engage juvenile referred participants in a restorative process that will help youth become aware of the impact of crime on communities and to give youth an opportunity to repair the harm. With the goal of establishing stronger connections and support in the youth’s community, conferences are held in the neighborhood of the youth’s residence with local community members. The process increases relationship building compared to the adult program by the following adaptations of Community Conference model:
- 1) In-Person Intake and Orientation—Youth and parent/guardian meet with RJCA staff to discuss program and practice the conferencing process, encouraging youth to tell their story and be ready to participate in the formation of their agreement.
2) Community Conference—
- a. Introductions and Overview–procedures reviewed; incidents reviewed; admission of responsibility
b. Discussion of Impact–offenders tell what happened; community members, offender supporters, and any direct victims tell how the offenders’ behavior impacted them and their community
c. Repairing Harm–the group as a whole works together to establish a plan for restitution to victim and/or community, decided by consensus, including details of local service projects
d. Closing–final comments; agreement signatures; refreshments and socializing.
3) Agreement completion—Each referred participant has 4 to 5 weeks from the date of the conference to complete the agreement.
4) Closing Conference—Original members of the Community Conference reconvene to hear the youth share their agreement activities and to be congratulated by conference participants.
RJCA’s reparative agreements often include provisions that address root causes of criminal behavior and provide alternatives for meeting the referred participant’s needs along with restitution in some form to the community. Counseling, chemical health assessments and education are common personal development provisions included in the agreements.